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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

April 8, 2009 at 11:00 PM

Comcast on the digital HD downgrade question

One of the most troublesome questions that arose after Monday’s column on Comcast’s digital switch involved the apparent downgrade of cable signals after customers install the “free” converters that Comcast is providing to expanded-basic customers.

It turns out the devices don’t support high-definition content. So customers who had been getting high-def channels with their expanded basic package are seeing those channels downgraded to standard definition after they install the converters.

When they complain to Comcast, the company suggests they pay $6.95 a month for an HD-capable device. Apparently, you get what you pay for with these free converters.

Comcast spokesman Steve Kipp defended the company’s practice and suggested a workaround. He said expanded-basic customers that were receiving high-def channels must have been getting them because they have TVs with digital tuners.

Comcast will provide a free splitter, he said, so they can split the incoming cable. One input will go to the converter device, and the other will go directly to the TV, so it can still get high-definition channels that aren’t scrambled.

“It’s not resulting in a degraded service because all they have to do is have a splitter and they’ll be able to see all the service they currently receive,” he said. “It’s an additional, very minor piece of equipment that has to be added.”

But it also adds a hassle for consumers. Not only do they have to figure out the splitter, they will have to change the TVs input if they want to change channels to one that’s high-definition.

The simpler solution, of course, is to drop the free converter and start paying Comcast for an HD capable box.

Comments | Topics: Comcast, Digital TV, digital TV

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